For support and questions about SparkChess or chess in general, please see the links on the right and the Q&A section below.
That is a Promotion; a pawn will be promoted to queen (or other piece) if it reaches the last rank. Please consult the official chess rules for details.
Most likely you were the victim of an en-passant take. Don’t feel too bad, many casual players are not familiar with it. Please consult the official chess rules for details.
To castle, you move the king to the desired position – if castling is available, the rook will be moved automatically. Castling is not possible if the king or the rook has moved; or if the king is in check; or if one of the squares the king must travel is controlled by an enemy piece. According to the official FIDE rules, you can castle if the king was in check previously.
Try playing on Beginner (Cody). If you download the Full Version, you have access to some help tools that will help you make better moves.
Congratulations! You must be an advanced player; most likely you’ve played in tournaments. Our Chess AI was created to be fun and quick, not brutally strong. If you are an advanced player, you can still enjoy SparkChess’ multiplayer or by using its Board Editor and the PGN/Replay features.
Stalemate occurs when the player who must move is not in check but has no legal moves. This situation happens most frequently when the player has just the King left on the board and any move would place them in check.
A stalemate causes the game to end as a Draw, therefore the player who has the advantage should try to avoid it and checkmate instead, while the disadvantaged player may try to force a stalemate to avoid losing.
Playing chess online
They are the same product. When we created the first game engine in 2002, we called it flashCHESS. Later, in 2008 the third generation of the engine, rewritten from scratch, took the web by storm and we wanted to keep the name due to its heritage, naming it flashCHESS III. Later, to prevent any trademark complaints from Adobe regarding the use of “Flash”, we decided to rename the game as SparkChess.
SparkChess 8 is our newest release.
SparkChess® is registered trademark.
Yes. Online play is free, although we display unobtrusive ads from Google. If you prefer not seeing the ads, you can download the standalone version of the game.
The tools used to build the game are rather expensive. On top of that, there is the hosting, bandwidth, SSL certificates, code signing certificates, that must be considered. At the time of writing, we have over two million monthly page views, consuming a total of 500 GB of bandwidth. We are using a CDN and a performance monitoring service to maintain the quality of service.
Downloading and installing the Full Version
Yes. SparkChess is available as a standalone application on many platforms.
Linux support has proved problematic given the myriad of distros and configurations. Please contact us. You should also be able to run the Windows build with WINE.
Most likely the email sent to you was flagged as spam by your mail server or email application. Please check your Spam/Junk folder. If you can’t find it, please contact us. We’ll do our best to reply to you within two business days and will send you the game.
No. Start by either
- looking at your Downloads History (press CTRL+J / CMD+J in your browser to see the list) or
- looking into your Downloads folder or
- searching your computer files for “sparkchess”.
If you can’t find it or in the event you lost all the information on your computer, please contact us. At a minimum we’ll need the email address you used when purchasing but providing more details (payment method, transaction ID, receipt) will help speed up the process.
If you own an older version, you can upgrade using this upgrade form.
The preferred installation method is through Google Play.
We used to offer the game directly through our site so the following applies only for those who bought SparkChess directly from us: To install SparkChess on Android you must set your tablet/phone to accept installations from outside Google Play. Go to Settings → Applications and check the Unknown Sources option if it’s not already selected. Then you may download the SparkChess APK file either on a computer or directly on the Android device and tap on it to install.
You’re probably launching the free version by mistake. Don’t worry, it happens.
Let’s review the possibilities:
- if you purchased SparkChess for PC or Mac, you no longer need to play the game in your browser. You must locate the downloaded game and install it on your computer. Use CTRL/CMD+J from your browser to see the Download History and look for a file containing the word “sparkchess”, e.g. sparkchess7-setup.exe on PC or sparkchess7.pkg on Mac.
- On Android, pay attention to the game icons. The free version has the word “LITE” on the bottom right of the icon; the full version does not. Launch the Full Version (you can safely delete the free version to save up space).
Given the number of operating systems and devices SparkChess is available on, we’re trying to find the best match for you automatically. If you are on PC or Mac, you’ll be directed to buy the native app for your platform. We do not have a Chrome Premium app, but we do have a Premium Live version of SparkChess that works in any browser with Flash Player 12 or later installed. Go to the All Platforms page and choose ‘Live Browser’ version.
If you have already purchased SparkChess for Windows or Mac and want it exchanged with Premium Live, please contact us.
Google is changing the way Chrome Apps work. A combination of Chrome bugs and application format changes left us unable to update SparkChess Full Version. The existing version will misbehave in future versions of Chrome.
Still, we want you to keep enjoying SparkChess. You can either migrate to the desktop version of SparkChess for either Windows or Mac OS X, or you can play SparkChess in any browser, just not as a Chrome app. Please contact us, letting us know which solution you’d prefer.
We’re really sorry for the inconveniences but we’re doing everything in our power to support you.
SparkChess Lite for Chrome remains unaffected by the changes and we’ll keep supporting it.
SparkChess does not contain any form of malware, spyware, adware or anything harmful; the game itself doesn’t interact with the system beyond loading and saving game files and accessing the network in multiplayer; the installer doesn’t do anything else besides copying the game and registering PGN files. Still, overzealous antivirus software may very infrequently flag SparkChess and move it to quarantine. (Sometimes, antiviruses manage to actually label themselves as viruses.)
SparkChess 8.0.0 was briefly flagged by Norton Antivirus as ‘WS.Reputation1‘, which basically means a file not commonly downloaded (new release – duh!). We’ve worked with Symantec and SparkChess 8 was whitelisted. You should keep your virus definitions up-to-date so that no false-positives occur.
If you are unsure about SparkChess 8 for Windows, you can use the free VirusTotal.com service to upload and scan the installer (sparkchess8setup.exe). They scan with 57 different antivirus and antimalware programs – SparkChess is clean and virus-free.
If your SparkChess download was moved by Norton Antivirus to quarantine, please follow these instructions to restore it.
Point-releases are free, i.e. if you buy version 7.0, you’ll get versions 7.1 through 7.9 for free, but not 8.0. Point-releases contain mostly bug fixes and improvements of existing functionality.
No. There are no monthly fees or subscriptions. Multiplayer access is free for the current version. If there’s a newer release than your version, multiplayer may or may not work, depending on the additional functionality we’ve added. We do our best to maintain backwards compatibility but we cannot guarantee it.
We certainly recommend you to upgrade, but the decision is up to you. Upgrading gives you access to new features and may correct any bugs we discovered. Also, as we improve and expand the multiplayer service, it may become incompatible with the older versions. The single-player experience never expires so you may continue to use the game for as long as you want.
We support major credit cards and PayPal. If you have a Visa / Visa Electron / Visa Debit, Mastercard / Maestro, Discover or Diner’s Club card, you can purchase SpakChess securely and easily from our site using the simple form. The payment is processed by a leader in electronic payments, PayMill. We do not store, transmit or process your card info – everything is handled by PayMill. If you choose this option, the name on the bank statement will be ‘http://sparkchess.com’.
Alternatively, you may use PayPal for payment. You don’t even need a PayPal account – you can use your credit card without logging in. PayPal supports Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. If you pay with your card via PayPal, the name on the bank statement will be ‘PAYPAL*SPARKCHESS’.
So which option should you choose? Paying directly from our site is much faster and easier, with instant download. PayPal is best if you have a PayPal account or if you have an Amex card.
We’re proud of SparkChess; we have tens of thousands of happy players since 2008 and we put you and your satisfaction at the top of our priorities. As such, we have a real Money Back Guarantee, which is highly unusual with downloadable games (just try to get a refund from Steam for example).
30 Day Money Back Guarantee: If you don’t like SparkChess or are unable to install and play it, we’ll give you a full refund. We only ask you to let us know what you didn’t like about SparkChess, or – if you can’t install/run it – to let us try to help you.
If you bought SparkChess by mistake, or simply changed your mind, you can get a full refund within 14 days, as long as the game wasn’t downloaded. No questions asked. This is a EU requirement for EU citizens, but we’re extending it for everybody, no matter where you’re from.
If you bought the wrong version, for example you wanted the PC version but bought the Mac one instead, we’ll replace it free of charge, as long as you make the request within three working days from the purchase date.
This refund policy applies only for purchases from sparkchess.com. If you have purchased SparkChess from another online store like Apple AppStore, Google Play or Blackberry World, you must request a refund from the store you purchased SparkChess from, subject to the store refund policy.
Yes, the payment process is perfectly secure. We are PCI-DSS compliant. We do not store, process or transmit any credit card info. The payment is handled either by PayMill or PayPal, both leaders in electronic payment processing, with a solid security record.
The connection is secured with the highest-grade SSL encryption, rated ‘A’ by Qualys Labs. The certificate, issued by DigiCert, is Extended Validation type with Public Audit Record, meaning that our identity has been thoroughly verified by the Certification Authority and that there was no abuse in the issuing process.
We continually monitor and test our systems to make sure they are 100% safe.
Downloadable versions of SparkChess are not subscription-based and there are not recurrent charges for them.
SparkChess Premium Live is a subscription-based service that lets you play the full version of SparkChess in your browser. There are no automatic payments on SparkChess Premium Live. You buy a subscription for 1, 6 or 12 months. At any time you have the option to extend that period with a new payment. Your card or PayPal account are not charged automatically, you never need to cancel the service. We believe this system is more honest and better protects your interests.
Yes. There are no monthly fees, no subscriptions and no in-app payments.
Yes. Paying customers have priority access to the service and are also able to use the Chat feature. Free users can play only if the server capacity is below a certain threshold and have limitations on the number of games they can play daily. There are many other subtle differences, for example a free user account has a score cap of 2,000 points.
Since SparkChess 8 we have adopted the standard Elo scoring system. Elo may be a bit confusing for new chess players but it’s well-understood by ‘veterans’ and used by chess federations worldwide.
The basic concept is that score is awarded based on winning expectancy – which player is more likely to win, based on existing scores. Two players with equal scores are considered equal in skill and have both the same “chances” (50%). In contrast, if a player has a much lower score, it’s expected to lose. Let’s have this example:
Let’s consider Player A with a score of 2200 and Player B with a score of 1600. Based on the math behind the system, Player A has a 90% chance of winning, so if he/she wins, there’s no big ‘achievement’ and will be awarded just 1 point. In contrast, Player B has only 10% winning expectancy, so if he/she win, he or she receives 19 points. In fact, player B would receive 9 points just for a draw!
You can see how this system is fairer and someone can’t accumulate score by playing only with other lower-ranked players. Also, scores don’t grow indefinitely, they tend to stabilize after a number of matches. Look at Magnus Carlsen’s Elo on FIDE: his score has been virtually unchanged since 2012. Therefore, the best way to increase your score is to play (and win) against someone with similar score.
Of course, this system does not eliminate cheating problems so we rely on you to report any abusive players!
We are parents ourselves and we’ve taken reasonable steps to make SparkChess Multiplayer a fun and safe environment for kids. Children under 13 do not provide any personally-identifiable information and may not use the Chat feature. We believe this is the safest way to ensure that they are not exposed to inappropriate language (filtering is done for English only). However, we cannot make any guarantees. We recommend parental involvement in any online multiplayer game. If you notice offensive words being used in usernames, we encourage you to submit them to our attention.
Filtering the players by subnet will only show players connected from the same network – usually the same physical location. Use this option to have your children see only opponents from the same household or nearby area.
For schools and chess clubs we can offer a complete separate environment. Please contact us and let us know your requirements.
We do not tolerate bullying, cheating or any other abusive behavior. If you have knowledge of such actions, please report the user’s nickname and their behavior. We may penalize their score, ban them for a limited time or, in extreme cases, remove their account and ban their IP. At least once we banned an entire IP range.
Yes, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the multiplayer service.
SparkChess Multiplayer was designed to connect through firewalls. Generally speaking, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the service.
Check the Server Dashboard – if it reports that it’s up and there are people connected, the problem is local.
- If you have the free online version, the most likely cause is that you’ve exceeded the maximum number of daily matches or that there are too many players connected (users of SparkChess Premium have priority).
- if you have the Premium desktop version, some Antivirus programs include overzealous firewalls that may block SparkChess. You must grant access for SparkChess to access the Internet via port 80. If you’re unsure, temporarily disable any antivirus and firewall you may have installed and see if you can connect.
- if you have SparkChess on a mobile device, we noticed that DNS resolution seemed slower in some instances leading to timeouts in extremely rare cases.
Over 25,000 people use the SparkChess Multiplayer service every day. There are between 300 and 1000 players online at any given moment.
SparkChess Multiplayer is built using Union Platform by User1 and hosted by leaders in cloud servers. We have load-balanced live servers located in New York City with automatic failover located in Seattle and DDOS filtering. We take daily offline backups. The quality of service is monitored 24/7 at 1 minute intervals.
Unlike many other MMO’s we do not take servers down daily or weekly. We apply rolling updates on the servers so that there’s always at least one server running at any time.
Before anything else, try changing your password. If someone else connects with your username, you will get disconnected. It’s possible for someone to guess your password, so use a strong one.
Dropped calls happen even with paid services when dealing with multi-billion cell companies. SparkChess Multiplayer constantly monitors players’ internet connection. There’s a fine balance that we must keep between reliability and performance. If a connection is lost for over 2 minutes, the user is disconnected from the service.
Free accounts may be removed if unused for prolonged periods. From time to time we purge inactive accounts. The “grace period” is dynamic and calculated based on many factors. We do want to reward active users and we need to conserve resources (storage is not free and having a few Gb of unused accounts doesn’t help); we also need to backup the databases and maintain them, which requires more CPU power.
Premium users’ accounts are never removed.
Because the number of available players is changing constantly, Full Version owners may filter the Invitation list based on their preferences.
Currently the following filters are available:
- by score: with this filter enabled, only players within 10% of your score will be shown. So if you have 1000 points, you’ll see only players with at least 900 points and at most 1100 points.
- by subnet: The filtering is done by IP address. Only players with IP addresses from your “virtual neighborhood” are shown (technically speaking it’s a Class-C subnet). This usually means only players from the same building or block, although it depends on your Internet provider. This mode is perfect when you want to play with a coworker or at home with another person in the same house.
- by country: only players determined to be in the same country as you are shown. This method may not be always available. Players who’ve just created accounts may not have their country determined yet.
We should mention that your location (both the IP and the country) are safe. Another player cannot learn your location.
SparkChess uses a chess engine developed in-house with negamax, principal variation, iterative deepening, aspiration, quiescence, history heuristics and transposition tables. It has an opening database with about 15000 moves. The desktop version is multithreaded.
The original version took about three months, not including the time spent studying algorithms. The game is in active development since 2008. We make one major release each year and a few minor releases.
We’re listening to feedback from all players and add the features you want the most. Our goal is to make people think “Chess is Fun!”. If you have any feedback or ideas for improvement, just contact us.
SparkChess uses iTunes to add, save and delete PGN files from your iOS device (iPhone or iPad).
On iOS, each app has its own separate Documents Folder. The files saved in those Documents Folders are accessible by iTunes. SparkChess can import and export PGN files to its own folder.
To add PGN files on your iOS device or to save a PGN file from the iOS device to your computer, open iTunes, click on the iPhone/iPad button at the top to connect to your device, then click on Apps. From the Apps tab, look at the File Sharing section. There are two panels there. Choose SparkChess from the left panel; on the right panel you’ll see SparkChess’ Documents (if any). To add a new PGN, click on “Add File…” button and select a PGN file from your computer. To save a file from the iOS device to your computer, select a PGN from the right panel a click on “Save to…” button. To delete a PGN file from your iPhone/iPad, right-click on the desired file from the right panel and choose Delete.
When you’re done, don’t forget to click on the Sync button at the bottom of the page!
In SparkChess, click on Replay and then on the Import or Export icons to load and save PGN files in the game’s Documents Folder.